With this stern upbringing, is it really surprising
that Bush evidenced early signs of sadism? As a teenager he jammed firecrackers in the orifices of frogs and snickered as
he blew them to bits. A few years later, as president of the DKE frat house at Yale, Bush instituted a branding on the ass-crack
as an initiation ritual. Young pledges were seared with a red-hot wire clothes hanger. One victim complained to the New Haven
police, who raided the frat house. The story was covered-up for several decades until it surfaced in Bush's first run for
governor of Texas. He laughed at the allegations, writing the torture off as little more than "a cigarette burn." From Andover
to Abu Ghraib.
In his teens, this man-child was shoved into a
distant boarding school. It must have been a relief for him. The squirrelly adolescent with the pointy ears did just enough
to get by. At Andover they called him "Bushtail." Ambition wasn't his thing. And he didn't have the athletic talent or thespian
skills to do much more than play the role of class goof. So he went on to an undistinguished academic career, highlighted
only by his ebullient performances as a cheerleader and a reputation for selling fake IDs. Even in his youth he was adept
George the Younger snuck into Yale on a legacy
admission, a courtesy to his father and grandfather. He was a remedial student at best, awarded a bevy of Cs, the lowest score
possible for the legacy cohort. Repositories like Andover and Yale know what to do with the dim children of the elite. George
nestled in his niche. No demands were made of him. He spent much his time acquainting himself with a menu of designer inebriants.
He was arrested twice: once for petty theft; once for public drunkenness. No one cared.
When Vietnam loomed,
Lil' George fled to New Haven for Houston and the safe harbor of the Texas Air National Guard, then jokingly known as Air
Canada--a domestic safe-haven for the combat-averse children of the political elite. It was a deftly executed dodge. His father pulled some strings. Escape hatches
opened. The scions of the ruling class, even the half-wits, weren't meant to be eviscerated in the rice paddies of the Mekong--that's
why they freed the slaves.
But soon George grew bored of the weekend warrior
routine. And who among us wouldn't?
He slunk off to Alabama, and promptly went AWOL for a year and a half. Nobody seemed to miss him. He wasn't a crucial cog in anyone's machine. George? George Bush??
How did the president-in-training fritter away
those idle days? Supposedly he was lending his expertise to the congressional campaign of Winton "Red" Blount. But he apparently
soon went AWOL from this assignment as well. Other campaign staffers recall young George ambling into the campaign office
in the late afternoon, propping his cowboy booted heals on a desk and recounting his nocturnal revels in the bars, strip joints
and waterbeds of Montgomery. The other staffers took to calling him the "Texas Soufflé.” As one recalled, "Bush was
all puffed up and full of hot air."
Precisely, how did he wile away those humid nights
on the Gulf Coast? According to the intrepid Larry Flynt, he spent part of his time impregnating his girlfriend and, like
a true southern gentleman, then escorting her to an abortion clinic. Checkbook birth control, the tried and true method of
the ruling classes. A year later, according
to Bush biographer J.H. Hatfield, George W. got popped in Texas on cocaine possession charges. The old man intervened once
again; George diverted for six months of community service
a Project PULL in a black area of Houston and the incident was scrubbed from the police blotter and court records. Today, Bush denies all knowledge of those squalid indiscretions. Just two more lost weekends in George's blurry
book of days.
Speaking of cocaine, Bush, by many accounts, had
more than a passing familiarity with the powder. Several acquaintances from his days at Yale tell us that Bush not only snorted
cocaine, but sold it. Not by the spoonful, but by the ounce bag, a quantity that would land any black or Latino dealer in
the pen for at least a decade. Young Bushtail had become the Snow Bird of New Haven.
Even the Bush family, so smugly self-conscious
of its public image, didn't seem to care much. Jr. wasn't the star child. They just wanted him alive and out of jail. (The
habitual drunk driving was already a nagging problem. On a December night in 1973, George came up from Houston to visit his
family in DC. He took his younger brother Marvin out drinking in the bars of Georgetown. Returning home after midnight, Bush,
drunk at the wheel, careened down the road, toppling garbage cans. When he pulled into the driveway, he was confronted by
his father. Young Bush threatened to pummel his old man, mano-a-mano. Jeb intervened before young George could be humiliated
by his father. A couple of years
later, the drunk driving would later land him in the drunk tank of a Maine jail-his fourth arrest.) No need to plump up his résumé with medals or valedictory speeches. Anyway
back then, the inside money was riding on Neil, who they said had a head for figures, or perhaps young Jeb, whose gregarious
looks hid a real mean streak. (Neil, of course, came to ruin in the looting of the Silvarado Savings and Loan (though he deftly avoided jail time), while Jeb proved his utility in Florida and amplified his presidential
By all accounts, the family elders saw George as
a pathetic case, as goofy as a black lab. They got him out of the National Guard eight months early (or 20 months, if you insist on counting the Lost Year)
and sent him off to Harvard Business School. He didn't have
the grades to merit admission, but bloodlines are so much more important than GPA when it comes to prowling the halls at the
Ivy League. The original affirmative action, immune from any judicial meddling. In Cambridge, he strutted around in his flight
jacket and chewed tobacco in class. The sound of Bushtail spitting the sour juice into a cup punctuated many a lecture on
the surplus value theory. At Harvard, one colleague quipped that Bush majored in advanced party planning and the arcana of
money laundering. George met every expectation.
Then came the dark
years. Booze, drugs, cavorting and bankruptcy in dreary west Texas. There he also met Laura Welch, the steamy librarian who
had slain her own ex-boyfriend, by speeding through a stop sign and plowing broadside into his car with a lethal fury. (Rep. Bill Janklow got 100 days in the pen for a similar crime; Laura wasn't
even charged.) They mated, married, and raised fun-loving twins. In 1978, George decided to run for congress. His opponent
cast him as carpetbagger with an Ivy League education. It worked. And it didn't help his chances much that Bush apparently
was drunk much of time. After one drunken stump speech, Laura gave him a tongue lashing on the ride home. Bush got so irate
that he drove the car through the garage door. He lost big.
Eventually, Laura got George to quit the booze--though
the librarian never got him to read. It wasn't a moral thing for her. Laura still imbibes herself, even around her husband.
She smokes, too. Refreshingly, so do the Bush Twins, who have both been popped for underage drinking.
George was Laura's ticket out of the dusty doldrums
of west Texas. She sobered him up and rode him hard all the way to Dallas, Austin and beyond. "Oh, that Welch girl," recalled
a retired librarian in Midland. "She got around." Wink, wink.
If the son of a millionaire political powerbroker
can't make it in Midland, Texas, he can't make it anywhere. George was set up in his own oil company in the heart of the Permian
Basin. His two starter companies, Bush Exploration and Arbusto, promptly went bust, hemorrhaging millions of dollars. His
father's cronies in a group called Spectrum 7 picked up the pieces. It flat lined too. A new group of saviors in the form
of Harken Oil swooped in. Ditto. Yet in the end, George walked away from the wreckage of Harkin Oil with a few million in
his pocket. One of the investors in Harken was George Soros, who explained the bail out of Bush in frank terms. "We were buying
political influence. That was it. Bush wasn't much of a businessman."
Among the retinue of rescuers in his hours of crisis
was a Saudi construction conglomerate, headed by Mohammad bin Laden, sire of Osama. The ties that blind.
Flush with unearned cash, George and Laura hightailed
it to Arlington, the Dallas suburb, soon to be the new home of the Texas Rangers, perennial also rans in the American League.
Bush served as front man for a flotilla of investors, backed by the Bass brothers and other oil and real estate luminaries,
who bought the Rangers and then bullied the city of Arlington into building a posh new stadium for the team with $200 million
in public money, raised through a tax hike, for which Bush, the apostle of tax-cuts for the rich, sedulously lobbied. Here's
a lesson in the art of political larceny. The super-rich always get their way. When taxes are raised, public money is sluiced
upward to the politically connected. When taxes are cut, the money ends up in the same accounts. As William Burrough's hero
Jack Black (the hobo writer, not the rotund actor) prophesied, you can't win.
The Rangers deal was never about building a competitive
baseball team for the people of Dallas/Ft. Worth. No. The Bush group seduced the city into building a stadium with nearly
all the proceeds going straight into their pockets. It was a high level grifter's game, right out of a novel by Jim Thompson,
the grand master of Texas noir. Bush played his bit part as affable con man ably enough. Even though he only plunked down
$600,000 of his own cash, he walked away from the deal with $14.7 million-a staggering swindle that made Hillary Clinton’s
windfalls in the cattle future's market look like chump change.
As team president, Bush printed up baseball cards
with his photo on them in Ranger attire, indulging his life-long fetish for dress-up fantasies. He would hand out the Bush
cards during home game. Invariably, the cards would be found littering the floors of the latrines, soaked in beer and piss.
Tomorrow: Mark His Words.
Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn, Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.